Sources here and here indicate that "The Season" ran from February to midsummer and high season started shortly after Easter. Presentation at court appears to usually occur early in high season. 1923 may have been an exception because the wedding of Prince Albert and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon occurred on April 26.
Thus it would seem that the presentation portrayed in the 2013 Christmas Special most likely occurred sometime between mid May and mid June.
Well here is something just for fun to determine the date. There are way too many things wrong with it, in the sense that it is not really shot in York (approximating Downton), the time by the church bells is probably not accurate, and as I understand it, most of the shooting actually occurs in the Spring. But knowing the time and the length of the shadows, and that it must be past mid year, we can approximate the date.
At about 40:35 into S4E8 (UK Version), Isobel and Lord Merton are walking past a graveyard. The church bell strikes 4 times or 4:00 PM. Looking at one of the shorter gravestones I measured that the shadow was almost exactly 3 times the height of the stone. Then solving for 3 times the height here with the following values:
Object Height 5
Date: Tuesday, 19 September, 1922 16:00
Latitude 53 58 N
Longitude 1 6 W
Timezone 0 (GMT)
Shadow Length 14.95
This Fall date gives a shadow length that is almost exactly 3 times the height of the object at 4:00 PM. The bazaar appears to have been a couple days later. Thus late September, where plus 8 months would be late May.
To follow up, if summer time were in effect, then the effective time would be 3:00 PM (spring forward). Solving for the date on which the shadow length is 3 times the object height at 3:00 PM results in a date of October 9 (John Lennon's bithday) for the year 1922.
The Season 'officially' ends on August 12th when they return to the country for the Grouse shooting, most of the intense part of the season seems to happen from April to July, especially if you look at the memoirs and novels of and about the period, which describe prominant debutante's balls as occuring in and around may.
When I read what you wrote about their "escape to the country before the summer heat sets in", I honestly have to say being an American born, raised and living in Texas made me stop and wonder what the climate of London must really be like. So I pulled up the Wiki article on London's climate and noticed the average high's even in the summer seem quite cool to me. But I have to figure it all depends upon how and where one grows up. Clearly, air conditioning has changed a good deal of the world lucky enough to be able to buy, use and maintain such.
We are used to seeing London as a cool, wet place, being that one hardly ever sees any scenes where people are not wearing at least a light jacket. But I also noticed London has also had some years where the high temperatures in the three main months of summer set record highs above 35 degrees C. That's getting warm even here in Texas. So yes, I bet the good folks in London who had country homes were quite anxious to get out to the cooler countryside. And I can't even imagine how much heat must have been trapped inside some of those streets where homes butted up against one another. I bet those made for some miserable days before air conditioning came into being.
It was the smell probably more than the heat. Everything from garbage to "road apples" made for wonderful smells when exposed to the summer sun. Without air conditioning, keeping cool meant opening windows and letting those aromatic vapors in. Also, these traditions date back to a time when the Thames was basically an open sewer, so the wealthy were not only escaping the heat and smell, but diseases like cholera. To its credit, London was one of, if not the first major city with a modern sewer system, but even at that, it wasn't built until the 1860s.
"Road Apples." LOL . . . Been a long time since I last heard that one used. But yeah, I have to agree, when you describe how wonderful London must have smelt once the summer heat island effect took hold, then yes . . . if I were lucky enough to have had a nice little cottage in the country I'd have made an early exit myself. One has to feel sorry for the poor devils who had no choice but to sweat it out.
That now makes me wonder, though, have many of the large estates had air conditioning installed over the years in England? Is there really a need for it? One would think they'd have periods where even their mild summer weather could get a bit unbearable for people used to living in climes much cooler than my Texas summers ever could get. But I'd guess they'd be much more interested in heating those big, cold places. Anyone have any information on that subject?
"Road apples" was the first family appropriate term that came to mind. :)
Large stone structures like Highclere Castle are very good at balancing the temperature in temperate climates. They have a lot of "thermal mass", so it takes a long time for them to warm up, and again to cool off. They will moderate the heat of the day and the chill of the night, so long as there are not prolonged periods of either.
Additionally it would be common to plant deciduous trees on the south side of buildings, because they would provide shade in the summer but let the sun through in the winter. People still found inventive ways of dealing with the weather even without modern technology.
People of that time would also be used to wider indoor temperature swings than we are today, even amongst the upper class. Perhaps that has something to do with why they changed clothes so often. We take it for granted that we can just set the room temperature to whatever we want, and it will stay there, but that has only been true for a couple generations.
In some parts of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona there have been many homes and even old forts built with thick adobe bricks, which, as you noted about the large stones used in structures like Highclere, also take advantage of thermal mass. But building structures out of adobe or rammed earth certainly isn't new. Such construction has been used around the world for no telling how many thousands of years. Such structures are not ideal, however, in parts of the world prone to earthquakes. I once lived in such a home and must say it was amazing how easy it was to keep the temperature inside very comfortable with very little need for added heating or cooling.
Remembering many of the films I have seen and stories I have read about the British Isles leads me to believe they must have many cool, if not downright cold, dank and dreary days. Looking at the climatic records for some of the region seems to show what must be lots of days with drizzle, as they don't seem to have a very large yearly rain total.
I'm assuming you are a Yank, Ehj666, and am wondering if you have had the occasion to visit England much and experience firsthand their weather. I've spent time in Southern Spain and Portugal but am sure their weather is nothing like the Isles.
I spent a chunk of time in the Taunton and Bristol areas, which isn't that far from the real Highclere Castle (next door by Texas standards). It is about halfway between London and Bristol, not that I knew anything about it at the time. I was familiar with the architect, Charles Barry, and knew he had done the Houses of Parliament and Cliveden, but was not familiar with Highclere at the time.
I recall coming in one time just before the summer solstice when all the roads around Stonehenge were closed (not that I had to go by there) because of the Wiccan / Druid riffraff that would keep showing up that time of year. Stonehenge isn't very far from Highclere.
I am amazed at how many sunny days they had for shooting around Highclere, because I sure did not see a lot of sun when I was there.
I also have some experience with stone buildings as I grew up in a rather large English Tudor style stone house. We did not have air conditioning except for a few strategically placed window units. It worked pretty well except for the occasional really brutal heat wave when it would not cool down and even the window units had trouble keeping up.
You now make me wonder how much they've had to wait around on account of weather to get in some shots. I did watch the special videos that came with the DVD's. One of them mentioned how lucky they had been to get in the two or three straight days of nice weather while filming the cricket match. Seems like they caught a real break there with the weather. I'm sure they must have a good deal of nice shots of Highclere 'in the can', so to speak, for use during those times when they pan around outside the castle. One has to believe weather plays a big part in the logistics around many of their outside scenes. Certainly they must have had to make lots of changes during filming due to days on end of inclement weather.
Thinking about something else that came up in those "special videos": I was also somewhat amazed how often it seemed they had to wait out the passing of aircraft and helicopters. That must run into a fair amount of change when you have that many people standing around doing absolutely nothing more than waiting out the passing of anything making racket.
What do you think?